Humanity has done just a tremendous job of putting plastic fucking everywhere. From the depths of the deepest point in the ocean to the inside of whales, we have smashed it out of the park in regards to making sure there is plastic in every place there shouldn’t be plastic. Putting it everywhere on the planet apparently not enough, it’s even cropping up inside our bodies at an alarming rate, according to a newly released study from the University of Newcastle.
The study No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People, commissioned by World Wildlife Fund, found that the average person could be ingesting up to five grams of microplastic a week. That five grams is about the weight of a credit card, amounting to roughly a teaspoonful; largely coming from the water we drink, with some coming in in shellfish, beer, and salt.
The study combines data from 52 other studies, 33 of which specifically looked at the consumption of microplastics through food and beverages. Of the 2000 pieces of microplastic that the researchers calculated the average person consumes, they estimate that around 1769 of those pieces come from water, with 182 in shellfish, 11 in beer and 10 in salt.
Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastic up to 5mm in length. Microplastics can be considered either primary or secondary, with primary microplastics entering the environment as a microplastic (things like shower gel microbeads or tyre abrasion) and secondary microplastics being plastics that have broken down further into microplastics. That is the last time I will say microplastics.
The study concludes that more research needs to be done specifically into plastic consumption and the long-term health effects of consuming plastic, but mentions that early research has shown that “inhalation of plastic fibres seem[s] to produce mild inflammation of the respiratory tract” and that consumption by marine mammals can lead to early death.
The future looks great.Image: Alfonso Di Vincenzo/KONTROLAB /LightRocket via Getty Images